Driving to a busy trading or market centre to either trade or purchase is always hectic. It always comes with the headache of looking out for safe parking space and stress of having to drive out after. The situation is however different at Madina Market.
Operators of Madina Market Car Park, La Nkwatantanang Municipal Assembly provide valet parking service for vehicle owners who patronise or do business within and around the trading centre.
Contrary to the situation where customers locate parking space on their own and park their vehicles, Madina Car Park has trained guards who do the parking in a very organised and orderly manner. Interestingly, vehicle owners leave their keys with the guards without any formal identification procedure or receipts to authenticate ownership of vehicles. This is solely based on trust and integrity.
Supervisor of the Madina Car Park, Commander Jimmy Dufu of the Ga East Municipal Assembly noted that one must be very smart and observant to work as a valet or a guard at the station. He said a good guard should be able to identify vehicle owners with their keys to avoid impersonation and car thefts.
He explained that all the guards that are assigned to the station are trained and professional drivers. “For people to entrust their vehicles to you, you must prove you can handle their vehicles better and win their confidence”, stated Commander Jimmy. “It is risky to scratch someone's car especially as we try to manage space that's why we go for experienced drivers”.
“I watch out for peculiar features of the person and associate that with the car key. It could be how tall the person is, a mark on the face, the dress or even the hairstyle,”explained Justice Osei, a guard at the station on how he identifies vehicle owners.
He said vehicle owners do not spend more than a minute to move out of the station irrespective of the number of cars parked. “We are here to facilitate movement and ensure convenience that's why we insist on taking their keys so that no vehicle blocks the other”, stated Justice Osei.
A Revenue Mobilisation Officer at the La Nkwatantanang Municipal Assembly, Azumi Bukari disclosed that over 500 cars are parked in a day. She stated that though some of the vehicles occupy designated parking spaces for the whole day, most of those that are arranged do not spend much time.
“For the six years that we started operating this parking system, no theft case has been reported”, said Azumi Bukari.
She however disclosed that there have been situations where peoples' vehicles were slightly scratched or dented by the Municipal guards. She stated that this is usually resolved amicably but in situation where the vehicle owner is not pleased the issue is sent to the Municipal Assembly Head Office.
“Car scratching here is very rare. It is our guards who even alert some of the vehicle owners about the scratches and for some it is so insignificant they ignore it. But for those who insist we spray or repair, we direct them to our Directors,” noted Azumi Bukari.
Enoch Bartels, a trader at the Madina Market who has been parking his car at the car park since its inception, noted that it is the safest place in terms of security as the Madina Police Station is just opposite it. “Even sometimes when I don't have anything to do within the market and I'm in town, I drive here to park and then pick commercial vehicles for my other rounds and come back for my car when I'm done”, stated Bartels.
Some of the traders believe that the orderly manner vehicles are parked encourages more people to patronise the market. They averred that some of their customers confirmed they are stuck to the market because of the convenience of having to park closer to the market without being bothered about the security of their vehicles.
“They told us the situation in other markets where they have to park far away from the market and walk long distance to such markets,” stated Maame Serwah, a tomatoes seller. “In such instances they don't feel comfortable spending much time in the market because they feel their vehicles are not secured.”
At the Madina Car Park, a space is also allocated for taxi drivers who provide transportation services for traders and other people who come to do business in the market. These taxi drivers provide charter or what is popularly called 'dropping' services.
Chairman of the Taxi Drivers Union at the car park, George Kwaysi said all the drivers are registered for easy identification so that passengers who leave their items in the vehicles could easily trace them for collection. He stated that most of the traders have developed confidence in the drivers to the extent that sometimes they are sent to deliver goods to their customers at their destinations for a fee.
“We have had a lot of incidence where people leave their items in the car only to report to our station the next day for them,” explained George Kwaysi. “Through this we have been able to maintain good relationship with the traders whom we even run errands for.”